The Oldest Code of Laws in the World eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 65 pages of information about The Oldest Code of Laws in the World.

A great space, some 700 lines, is devoted by the king to setting out his titles, his glory, his care for his subjects, his veneration of his gods, and incidentally revealing the cities and districts under his rule, with many interesting hints as to local cults.  He also invokes blessing on those who should preserve and respect his monument, and curses those who should injure or remove it.  A translation of this portion is not given, as it is unintelligible without copious comment and is quite foreign to the purpose of this book, which aims solely at making the Code intelligible.

I desire to express my obligations to Dr. F. Carr for his many kind suggestions as to the meaning of the Code.

The Index will, it is hoped, serve more or less as a digest of the Code.  One great difficulty of any translation of a law document must always be that the technical expressions of one language cannot be rendered in terms that are co-extensive.  The rendering will have implications foreign to the original.  An attempt to minimise misconceptions is made by suggesting alternative renderings in the Index.  Further, by labelling a certain section, as the law of incest, for example, one definitely fixes the sense in which the translation is to be read.  Hence it is hoped that the Index will be no less helpful than the translation in giving readers an idea of what the Code really meant.

No doubt this remarkable monument will be made the subject of many valuable monographs in the future, which will greatly elucidate passages now obscure.  But it was thought that the interest of the subject warranted an immediate issue of an English translation, which would place the chief features of the Code before a wider public than those who could read the original.  The present translation is necessarily tentative in many places, but it is hoped marks an advance over those already published.

Dr. H. Winckler’s rendering of the Code came into my hands after this work was sent to the publishers, and I have not thought it necessary to withdraw any of my renderings.  In some points he has improved upon Professor Scheil’s work, in other points he is scarcely so good.  But any discussion is not in place here.  I gratefully acknowledge my obligations to both, but have used an independent judgment all through.  I hope shortly to set out my reasons for the differences between us in a larger work.  A few of Dr. Winckler’s renderings are quoted in the Index, and marked—­Winckler’s tr.

C. H. W. Johns.

January 31, 1903.


section 1.  If a man weave a spell and put a ban upon a man, and has not justified himself, he that wove the spell upon him shall be put to death.

section 2.  If a man has put a spell upon a man, and has not justified himself, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy river, he shall plunge into the holy river, and if the holy river overcome him, he who wove the spell upon him shall take to himself his house.  If the holy river makes that man to be innocent, and has saved him, he who laid the spell upon him shall be put to death.  He who plunged into the holy river shall take to himself the house of him who wove the spell upon him.

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The Oldest Code of Laws in the World from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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